Content Warning: This letter discusses sensitive topics, including eating disorders.
To the Editor:
You are beautiful. I haven’t met you, spoken to you, seen the shape of your body or the symmetry of your face. But you are beautiful nonetheless.
According to figures from the National Eating Disorders Association, anywhere from 10 to 20 percent of women and 4 to 10 percent of men suffer from eating disorders in college. Although eating disorders vary — with many cases not adhering perfectly to labels such as ‘anorexia’ or ‘bulimia’ — they do share something in common: the regulation (or lack thereof) of food as a means to achieve some desired end.
In the environment we find ourselves in as students, it can be all too easy to use food as a means. Amidst the chaotic stress of classes and extracurricular commitments, limiting one’s caloric intake can provide an individual with a sense of control. Conversely, insecurity about one’s body image or a desire to fit in at social events can lead one to dislike their appearance and, accordingly, hurt themselves in the pursuit of what is believed to be positive change. Even more generally, in the heart of winter when you need to hike through snow for fifteen minutes to get a sandwich, I’d imagine the mentality of meal-skipping is not foreign to most.
There’s a good chance you know someone with an eating disorder. Maybe that person is a friend, or perhaps it’s just someone you know who is hurting. Regardless, it’s never bad to reach out — not in confrontation, not in speculation, but in friendship. To know that there’s someone who cares about you and will listen to what you have to say can be, in my own experience with recovery, fundamental to reestablishing a sense of self-worth. And for those who are suffering, it can undoubtedly be daunting to share your experience, or seek medical help. But it doesn’t need to start in a doctor’s office; reaching out to a trusted friend or family member can be incredibly meaningful so that you don’t have to go on bearing a burden alone.
So there you have it — this National Eating Disorder Awareness Week, reach out. For information on the various warning signs and symptoms, or on strategies for outreach and intervention, you can visit the National Eating Disorders website.
You are beautiful, and you deserve to know that.
Weston Barker ’21
Students may consult with counselors from Counseling & Psychological Services (CAPS) by calling 607-255-5155. Employees may call the Faculty Staff Assistance Program (FSAP) at 607-255-2673. An Ithaca-based Crisisline is available at 607-272-1616. For additional resources, visit caringcommunity.cornell.edu.